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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,346
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,219 | FT: 92
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006

Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels. This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged. For 2014 Darkness go here:  http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/p ... 14/141724/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Reviews: 811 | Hads: 3,346
Photo of waltonc
4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Picked this up in a trade thanks to bigmar94.

A: Thick, black stout with a big tan head.

S: Dark roasted malts, coffee, and lots of fruit.

T: Again, dark roasted malts, lots of hops, and very sweet fruit flavor going on here. As abfraser said while we were drinking this, it's like a fruitcake stout. Very interesting and unusual taste.

M: Pretty thick and smooth, sticky from all the sugar.

D: Gotta ding Darkness on the drinkability front. I strained to drink a third of this bottle, but pushed myself and got it done. Not sure why it's not offered in smaller bottles. Pretty ridiculous.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to scoobydank for this awesome bottle as part of the BA Vets BIF.

Jet black with a decent sized head. very tight and confined bubbles. Heavy dried fruit aroma. Very "india ink" like smell to it. Fruity and very malty flavors dominate. Again dried fruit, very plum like. Raisen quality to the flavor. Sticky sweetness and a trace of toffee. Lacks some of the heavy roasted notes and the strong hop bite I am used to in a RIS. Sticky and creamy mouthfeel. A damn good RIS. I like mine a bit more astringent overall flavor wise. Still damn enjoyable and well worth trying.

Oh my wife just commented the label would make a great tattoo.

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Photo of SacoDeToro
4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at 2007 GABF. Poured by Omar himself.

The beer poured a deep coal black with a nice dark brown head.

The aroma of the beer was full of dark roasted malts, dark chocolate, and ash. Some tobacco in the aroma as well.

The flavor of the beer was focussed on roasty malts to the point of being slightly ashen. Mid-palate could've used a little more molasses/dark fruit sweetness. The hops seemed slightly citrusy and pretty up front. The finish had a faint tobacco note as well.

The mouthfeel was full, but was not too heavy. It finished pretty dry for a RIS. The carbonation seemed dialed in well.

This beer is good, but overhyped IMO. There are much better imperial stouts out there that eclipse Darkness in both complexity and drinkability. KtG, DL, and BCS are few that come out ahead IMO.

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Photo of antoines15
4/5  rDev -9.3%

I would like to start bu saying that I liked this more than I liked this year's version of Dark Lord. Had it on tap at Tribes and have never hsad it before. I won't stick to the formt of beer reviews but still get my point acrdoss. It was very sweet at first but the finish semmed a bit more roasty, wich reallu balanced it out for me, Iam srill not sure of i like dthis beer or not after a fw 'buzzed" minutes to think abut it, I would give it B as a score. NOt bad but not anything to kill yorself tryin gto get. O'Malley!

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Photo of maedhros09
3.99/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Look: opaque black with creamy tan head that retains well
Smell: At first I thought is smelled kind of soapy, then I realized it smelled almost exactly like drying paint. This sounds unpleasant but the aroma was ok. The resemblance to drying paint was somewhat distracting .
Taste: What was most noticeable was the alcohol, which is on the same level as a wine. Powerful and spicy. There was some roastiness but it tended to be overpowered by the drying paint again. At some point I realized this was kind of a resinous hop aroma, but again the resemblance to drying paint was distracting
Feel: Very full bodied, thick, syrupy mouthfeel with perfect fine carbonation. This might have been my favorite part of the beer.

Overall: Well, I had high expectations for my first Darkness. Honestly it was OK until I realized it smelled exactly like drying paint, at which point it became a somewhat less pleasurable experience. Still, it is worth a try, and who knows, maybe my palate was messed up from something I ate.

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Photo of Sammy
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Caught up with this at the Blue Nile in Minny. Black with huge off-beige head. Hoppy RIS.Sourness in first sip. The bitterness builds up, flows over the sugary finish. Integrated coffee, sugar to make it coffee liquor acceptable?ABove average mouthfeel. Better as warms up, was served a bit on cold side.

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Photo of mdvatab
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received 2010 bottle in a trade, split with BA friend barfwin in celebration of my son's birth.
Poured from 750 ml bottle into snifter.

Aroma: Rich molasses, fudge brownie, and dry, roasty dark chocolate. A very mild herbal hop note chimes in. Also picking up some anise.

Appearance: Dark tan, 1 finger sudsy head. One of the most substantial collars of foam that I've seen on an imperial stout. Not a requirement, but definitely a nice touch! Leaves sudsy lacing behind. Oh--and the body of the beer matches the name--pitch black!

Flavor: Rich chocolate, molasses, and fruity grape notes up front. Fig and dark, candied fruits. A touch of smoke. More grape. A balanced bitterness at the end.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy. Nice, fine, silky medium-high carbonation.

Overall: A delicious RIS--don't get me wrong--but fell just a tad bit shy in the complexity department. A solid 4, maybe even 4.5. Not sure how well this one was treated over the past year (shipping/storage conditions), which may have had an impact. Looking forward to trying another 2010 in the future, and also 2011!

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Photo of CooperEllis
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

22oz into 6oz tasting glass. 2010 release. Thanks to afksports.

Dark - unable to tell if it is deep brown or black but the head is a fair tan; no lacing.

Cocoa nib in the front, full roasted malt takes over.

Flavor is a robust roasted malt which becomes very sweet; the finish is perfect bit I wish there was more complexity in the initial flavor. This isn't a slight so much as enhanced expectation based on reputation. This is certainly an above average RIS.

The mouthfeel is perfect. The carbonation, weight of the brew, taste and viscosity are all well matched.

I would certainly drink, and would drink it over damn near all the off the shelf options to which i have frequent access.


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Photo of urwithdave
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tnx to gtreid for sharing this one at our stout throw down! 09 bottle poured into my cigar city snifter.

A- Midnight black in color. A solid 1' 1/2" dark brown head that has pretty decent retention. Nice lacing.

S- Big molasses and booze. Malts and a slight hint of hops.

T- Very sweet molasses and dark chocolate. Some dried fruits, mainly prunes. The alcohol takes the spotlight and kind of drowns out the other flavors. There is a bit of earthly hops.

M- Kind of thin, almost oily. I would have def preferred a little more thickness.

D- A little more time would've helped this one out. The alcohol was still very hot.

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Photo of mjyoung
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Split with scottfire and bbb099. Thanks to scottfrie.

2009 release

A: Pours very dark and rich, with a nice head that seems solid enough to eat at first but recedes quickly. Gorgeous lacing as it slowly recedes. Doesn't appear to be as thick as I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing.

S: Very strong smell of roasted molasses, overwhelming any other flavors.

T: Dark chocolate, roasted malt, and molasses. Very warm, with the alcohol following all the way down. Once you get past the initial powerful hit, you pick up some brown sugar and a sweet, full-bodied fruitiness. The molasses and malt definitely overpowers everything else. It would have been interesting to try this both fresh, and with another year in the bottle.

M: A bit thinner than I was expecting, but still a slky, viscous feel that sits quite well.

D: It's unfortunately a bit hard to rate this beer as objectively as I would like (my earlier find this evening is clouding my judgment). It is quite good, although a little bit more harsh than I would like. Another year in the bottle would have been interesting. It doesn't quite measure up to the hype, but don't get me wrong. I'd drink it again at the drop of a proverbial (or literal) hat.

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Photo of davod23
3.97/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Finally decided to open this bottle. 2008 vintage, poured into my Bruery tulip.

Surprise, surprise! Black, with a nice 2-finger tan head that retreats to a thin cap. Pour appears to be medium-bodied for an imperial stout.

Aroma... is odd. I'm not totally on board with it. Lots of malt there, looots of malt. There's a bit of a toasted character, some berry fruitiness, but malt dominates this beer, making it almost one-dimensional. I don't really care for this smell, other imperial stouts are vastly superior (IMO) in this department.

Taste, on the other hand, is really great. It's not often that you'll get such disparity between taste and smell. I'm glad for this. Malty, with slight bitterness on the back end. I am getting blackberry and cherry notes, roasted marshmallow, and a bit of toast here. Chocolate is barely a whisper, and coffee is almost non-existent. Very interesting take on the style, I've never had an imperial stout like this before.

Mouthfeel is outstanding, simply great. It's full-bodied, but doesn't quite reach thick. Perfect, medium level of carbonation. Silky, smooth, and creamy. Easily one of the best mouthfeels I've ever experienced.

Overall, this is quite good. I do wish that I had the opportunity to try this fresh, as I am guessing the hops add a lot to this beer, particularly with respect to the nose. As it is, it's still quite a nice and unusual stout. Recommended.

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Photo of LeonTrotsky
3.96/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

Bottle #27 consumed from my Darkness tulip.

A: Delicious. It pours jet black with a creamy brown head, exactly the way a stout should look
S: Sweet dark chocolate and fruity hops with a hint of coffee. It actually smells kind of like dark chocolate covered raspberries.
T: The taste is like the smell, but the hops are much more intense. It has a sort of harsh bitterness to it.
M: Scrumtrulecent. Thick but not cloying. Like the appearance, it is how a stout should feel in ones own mouth.
D: It took me quite a while to finish the glass and I didn't want another one. Good thing I was sharing the bottle; I wouldn't have enjoyed finishing it myself

I had Darkness on tap several times this year and enjoyed it much more. Maybe it was just my imagination but the hop bitterness from the bottle was much harsher (not in an enjoyable way) than on tap. The friend I shared it with has a bottle she is aging for at least a year and I think that bottle will be much tastier. It could use a good year in the bottle.

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Photo of AwYeh
3.96/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

2010 vintage, poured into snifter. Thanks to readbaron for trading me this.

A: Pours an opaque pitch black, no hints of even a dark brown around the edges, with three fingers of foamy, oatmeal-thick brown head capping off the glass. Outstanding retention and lacing; this is a great looking beer.

S: Thick and rich, this one is a malt overload. Tons of roasted malts, with lots of chocolate, hints of sweet espresso, and the tangy musty smell of dark dried fruits- raisins, prunes, and currants. Hints of ethanol as the beer warms (though these don't show up in taste).

T: Lots of flavors at play here, with the chocolate from the nose emerging immediately. Tangy, fruity flavors are in control for the rest of the way, with a long, lingering, slightly acidic, sweet finish. With warmth, a chocolate flavor comes into play on the finish as well.

M: Extremely smooth- possibly the smoothest beer I've ever tasted. Medium-bodied with light carbonation, Darkness has a slightly creamy finish which makes the flavor even more enjoyable.

D: A good beer and an enjoyable glass, even if the balance lies a bit too much in favor of the beer's intense, sweet fruit flavors. Alcohol is well hidden and the smoothness made the first half of my glass disappear quickly, though things were bordering on cloying for the second glass.

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Photo of bbb099
3.96/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage (Mummy). Thanks a bunch to scottfrie for sharing this with me. Reviewed on 12-18-2010.

A - Jet black color with a brown colored head. Appears to be quite viscous.

S - Strong burnt, roasted malt aroma.

T - Pure roasty flavor accompanied by some molasses and woody taste. Some chocolate and alcohol on the way down.

M - Full bodied. Very thick. Moderate carbonation.

D - Leaves some alcohol burn, but does have a great taste that keeps you wanting more.

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Photo of erz316
3.96/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle into guinness pint glass. 2009 vintage

the bottle pours a kind of stealth head: at first it seems to be making no head, so then I pour a bit harder, and we get a bit of progress; then the whole thing explodes with this slow moving, creeping foam. I think at the most it was three fingers, it retains well enough. the colour of the foam is a solid tan colour, and the texture is very creamy. the body is indeed dark, but some light does get through the bottom. the nose is simply malts with bitter hops, quite hoppy actually. the taste is quite like the nose: a very hoppy RIS with a huge malty keel. aside from the hops, it is pretty standard tasting for my palate. a bit of something sweet, like cherries, on the aftertaste. the feel is good, pretty thick, but not as much as dark lord.

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Photo of Cedromar
3.95/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

C'est la vie.

2009 Vintage acquired in trade, but I can't remember with whom. If you see this and we did the trade, shoot me a BM and I'll edit accordingly.

I've been fortunate to try the '07 and '08 Darkness and am now sampling the '09.

Well, this is one is a disappointment. '07 is plain and simply, the tits and '08 is like a bowel movement after having the spiciest indian food you've ever eaten.

Appearance is good, pitch black with a two finger head that wuickly fades to small bubbles.

Smell is dark fruits with a nice hoppy backbone.

Taste is again good, not great. The hop bite is there first, followed closely by the not-as-overpowing sweetness that plagued the '08 edition.

Mouthfeel is the best part of the '09 edition. Silky smooth all they way down into my belly.

The overpowering sweetness really hurts the drinkability of this brew.

In short, Darkness and I have a love hate relationship, much like the re-launch of Doctor Who. '07 is Tennant, the 10th Doctor, arguably the best. '08 is Eccleston, the 9th Doctor, far too cheeky for its own good, and the '09 is Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, there's promise, but right now it has some pretty big shoes to fill to be the best.

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Photo of Patchmaster
3.93/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Scored this bottle thanks to newk340. This was a 2010 shared with the family over the holidays. This had been one of my top wants. I'm glad I was able to knock this off my list. I wish I could say I was blown away. Unfortunately the Darkness didn't lead up to the hype that I was expecting.

A- Pours jet black as a normal head would dark brown with a small head.

S- I expected more layers from this. I was hoping for the complexities to really show. I get a lot of malts and a faint hint of dried fruits maybe a prunes???

T- Lot of malts and again the flavor of prunes. I wouldn't consider it bad, just nothing amazing.

M- Very thick. Like drinking a milkshake. This was the best aspect of the beer.

D- Overall this is a great beer. I might just stick with the Old Raspy and not have to worry about the trade. Darkness is a great representation of a RIS. The hype train has grabbed on and won't let go.

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Photo of jwinship83
3.93/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

taken from notes. served 2 9oz pours at two brothers "for the love of hops." plastic cups both times. moderately priced at 6$ each.

A- this one pours a viscous black colored body with a very small coffee colored head which lasts only a second. it might be the plastic cups, but none of the beers served that day left any decent lacing to speak of. this one was no exception.

S- dark roasted malts and a lot of sweetness. sweeter than most stouts. reminds me of raisins and plums. some coffee/hops at the end. milk chocolate throughout.

T- the taste was as sweet as the smell. kind of off putting to be honest. lots of chocolate and raisins. more hops at the end than the average stout. that was kind of cool.

M- thick and full bodied. chewy and palate coating. a nice low level of carbonation really works in this one's favor.

D- easy enough to drink but i dont think i could have had more than two without wanting to switch to something else. nice to see this one on tap again in this area. it had been a while. not the greatest stout of the fest, but nothing to pass on either

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Photo of ChadQuest
3.93/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drove over an hour into Chicago where thanks to the Craft Brewers convention there was a firkin being tapped that i was able to partake in.

Got my tulip for $7 which i thought very reasonable, and the head was just under a finger but tightly packed and coffee colored. black body under.

This is a sweet one through and through, there is just a small hint of roast and alcohol trying to hold the sweetness in check. It's not cloying, don't get me wrong, just absolutly on the sweet end of the spectrum. I got alot of milk chocolate, with a pretty syrupy sensation, not only on the mouth feel but the flavor as well, which was not really detrimental but just differant.

This was medium heavy thickness, but honestly thinner then i was expecting for such a stout.

The finish was a bit thin and had me sipping it every 3 seconds, i would never guess this was over 10%, no way, way to drinkable. i could have 40oz of this easily.

Glad i made the trip to enjoy this beer with some of my too seldom seen friends in the city.

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Photo of 1Adam12
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2011 vintage split with a buddy of mine. First thing that stuck out at me was how thin this poured. After all of the arguing about which is better between dark lord and darkness, I was expecting it to look thicker. Black in color, but thin. Nice nose, lots of malt, roasts and chocolate. Taste was sweet, coffee, loads of chocolate jumped out at me. Bitter taste as well. Mouthfeel was thin. It coated the mouth, but it was very thin. Also, the flavors really didn't linger. Overall, this was a very tasty beer that I would drink again in a heartbeat, however IMO there is absolutely no debate on which is better between this and DL.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter. 2011 bottle. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Black with nice lacing. Small khaki head.

Smell - Roasted chocolate. Sweet caramel in there too. Fruity with some licorice.

Taste - Sweet, for sure. More than I expected. It blends well with the roasted malts, though. Licorice and dark fruits. Ashy bitter malt finish.

Mouthfeel - Heavy and sweet. Medium carbonation.

Overall - Lots of sugar in this guy. Not to Dark Lord levels, but sweet. It's what Dark Lord should be.

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Photo of HoldensHomebrew
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage

A-Black thick oil liquid black. Just as a Good Imperial Stout should be. VERY long lasting light brown head.

S- Milk chocolate and roasted malts dominate.

T-Chocolate and roast blend but not what I expected from this very hyped beer. I was left wanting, it is a decent stout but nothing exceptional.

M-Medium full bodied, would have preferred a more viscous fluid to chew on.

D-Was good, not great. Expected more, was left wanting. It doesn't compare to some of the other great Imp Stouts wondering out there. Wish for a more balance smooth flavor with it also being more intense.

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Photo of hellbilly
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

someone opened this at bill and wendy's though i'm pretty sure everyone in the room had one with them!...

2008 with a bitchin' label... pours just lighter than black with a light tan head which lingers and leaves an abundance of spotty lacing. pine-like hops hit the nose first but soon turn to sinus numbing citrus peel... secondary scents of chocolate, malt powder, nutty/coffee, grass and leafy green hops.

the palate is quite sweet... almost to cloying but the power of the hops make it a bit easier to enjoy. the flavor shares the characters of the aroma but also has some woodiness and a distinct savory note. there is a long lingering aftertaste of malted chocolate malted milk with pine needles in it. medium to medium/full bodied with a creamy almost oily mouth feel. pine-like and leafy hops keep it really easy to drink and bring it back from the brink of sticky...8/4/7/4/17/4.0

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Photo of Etan
3.91/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 bottle shared by Oscar. Thanks!

A: Pours a dark cola color with a small tan head.

S: First off comes a sweet citric hoppiness. The hop notes mix with dark chocolate and roasted grain. It's actually smelling quite sweet, which I wasn't expecting.

T: Light charred bread, sweet milk chocolate, a bit of sticky pine resin and grapefruit hoppiness, cocoa, sugary grain.

M: Thick-bodied, low carbonation.

O: An enjoyable beer, although it was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, and a bit sweeter than I would have liked.

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Photo of ghostwalker
3.91/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Edition
Appearance: Dead black body, light mocha head.

Nose: Light, not much. I expected more aroma.

Flavor: Semi-light for an RIS, hoppy. Cocoa and cofee on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Thin but coating.

Overall: Rich, flavorful, surprisingly drinkable. A really good RIS, only marred by the thin body.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 811 ratings.